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A taste of jam: Soo Pass adds new festival to summer lineup

The Soo Pass Ranch has hosted country and Christian music festivals and now will add a third kind to that list -- jam bands. The first 10,000 Lakes Festival will be at the Detroit Lakes, Minn., site Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The lineup featu...

The Soo Pass Ranch has hosted country and Christian music festivals and now will add a third kind to that list -- jam bands.

The first 10,000 Lakes Festival will be at the Detroit Lakes, Minn., site Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The lineup features 25 acts, including national headliners Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers and Leo Kottke, as well as regional jam bands like Josh Harty and The Garden Party of Fargo.

Chyrll Sparks, one of the festival's organizers, says the event is modeled on the two-year-old Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn. The event is part of a circuit featuring jam bands that are spiritual heirs of The Grateful Dead -- heavy on improvisation, with diverse influences.

"There's a huge, fan-driven movement of people who want to hear quality music," Sparks says. "And you can't get it on the radio. They're going to the Internet, they're exchanging ideas, they're exchanging music files."


The target audience is between 20 and 35 and college-educated listeners to alternative radio. "It seems, judging by the people that register on our Web site and people we get e-mails from, it's like a grad school crowd," Sparks says.

And many of them follow their favorite bands just as the Deadheads used to follow the Grateful Dead. They even have their own sort of informal club names; Widespread Panic's fans call themselves Spreadheads.

It's an underserved audience, Sparks says.

"We thought, for better or worse, country music's in a slump," she says.

"Moon Dance Jam does a really good job with the classic rock stuff. We have this great site we need to exploit more, so we thought, let's give it a try."

The organizers were encouraged by the quick success of the Bonnaroo Festival.

Last year, when the first festival sold out 70,000 tickets, "there was a huge buzz in the promotion community because no one had ever done a show that big using noncommercial, nonradio bands," she says. She checked out Bonnaroo's Web site and discovered she had never heard of one of the bands.

Since the fan base doesn't listen to commercial radio or read mainstream magazines, promoting the festival presented new problems, Sparks says. Much of the promotion was done on jambase.com, an Internet clearing house for information on the jam band scene.


In fact, the Internet has been the main place where word has spread about the 10,000 Lakes Festival. The Web site drew about 700 responses from North Dakota and 1,200 from Minnesota, Sparks says. During a recent trip to Fargo, Sparks quizzed several college-aged store clerks on whether they'd heard about the festival. None had.

But responses from more jam band-heavy areas, such as Georgia and Missouri, ran in the tens of thousands.

"Reaching that target has been unusually difficult," Sparks says.

Organizers are expecting about 10,000 people for the festival, which would be the event's financial break-even point. They have contingency plans for as many as 50,000 if they get lucky.

If that does happen, the festival's battle-hardened staff shouldn't have any trouble accommodating the larger number, she says.

While it took up to 16 hours to get from Bonnaroo's off-highway entrance into the campsites, "Here, we can completely load our campgrounds and never have more than 10, 12 cars waiting to get in at the peak arrival time," she says.

There will be some differences between the setup for the new festival and the Soo Pass Ranch's other events.

The VIP seating area in front of the stage will be turned into a dance floor and there will be no Jumbotron screens, Sparks says.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541

If you go

- What: 10,000 Lakes Festival featuring more than 25 jam bands, both national and regional

- When: July 3-5

- Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.

- Getting there: From Fargo, go west on Highway 10 to Detroit Lakes, go south on Highway 59 for 4.8 miles.

- The bands: Widespread Panic; The Allman Brothers; moe.; Leftover Salmon; Gov't Mule; Galactic; O.A.R.; Leo Kottke; Joe Bonamassa; Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons; Robert Randolph and The Family Band; Particle; The Big Wu; Tim Sparks; Echo; RANA; Topaz; Mary Cutrufello; Kung Fu Hippies; The Lost Trailers; The Jack Brass Band; Josh Harty and The Garden Party and Foggy Bottom.

- Information: (218) 847-1681; www.10000lakesfestival.com

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